2023Rules Topic – Abnormal Course Condition: Animal Holes on Putting Greens

Rules Topic – Abnormal Course Condition: Animal Holes on Putting Greens

To begin learning the Rules of Golf, it is recommended to start by thoroughly reading and studying the definitions provided in the Rules of Golf book. Gaining an understanding of the “Language of the Game” and the specific meanings of common words used in the rules, such as “bunker,” “equipment,” “embedded,” “animal,” and “moved,” is crucial.

Often, during your competition rounds situations arise that are a little more complicated to navigate without applying multiple definitions if not multiple rules of golf to get an answer on how to proceed. For example, encountering sandhill cranes on a golf course is a common occurrence in Florida. These large birds are known to dig into the ground while searching for food, sometimes causing disturbance to certain areas of the course. In order to determine if a player is entitled to free relief from these abnormal damaged areas, it is necessary to refer to Rule 16 – Relief from Abnormal Course Conditions. According to this rule, free relief is permitted from interference caused by animal holes, ground under repair, immovable obstructions, and temporary water.

To ascertain whether a sandhill crane is considered an animal, one would consult the definition provided in the Rules of Golf. According to this definition, an animal is defined as any living member of the animal kingdom, excluding humans. This definition includes mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and invertebrates.

Moreover, the definition of “animal hole” outlines that it refers to any hole dug in the ground by an animal, excluding holes that are created by animals classified as loose impediments, such as worms and insects. The term “animal hole” encompasses the loose material excavated from the hole, any tracks or trails leading to the hole, and any areas on the ground that are affected by the animal’s digging.

Therefore, sandhill cranes fall under the category of animals, and the holes they dig, along with the disrupted soil and grass, are considered animal holes. Animal holes are classified as abnormal course conditions. As stated in Rule 16, if a player’s game is interfered with by an abnormal course condition, and their ball is not located in a penalty area, they are likely entitled to free relief.

To take advantage of free relief from an area damaged by sandhill cranes, assuming the ball is not in a penalty area, the player should identify the nearest point that provides complete relief without moving closer to the hole, within the same part of the course (general area, bunker, or putting green). From this point, the player can either drop a ball within one club-length or place a ball on the putting green. 

In a recent PBCGA event, players were reminded how to proceed if they came upon Abnormal Course Conditions, specifically when their ball is on the putting green.

ABNORMAL COURSE CONDITIONS ON PUTTING GREEN (Rule 16.1d): By definition animal holes (and diggings) are “Abnormal Course Conditions” (ACC). When on the putting green, If the player’s: a) ball touches or is in/on ACC b) stance or swing is interfered by ACC c) line of play is interfered by ACC then Free Relief may be taken by PLACING a ball on the spot of the “Nearest Point of Complete Relief” (NPCR) from the ACC interference. Reference Point: NPCR | Size of Relief Area: Ball must be PLACED on the spot of the NPCR | Limits on Relief Area: The NPCR must be either on the putting green or in the general area. Note: When taking relief, you must take complete relief from all interference by the ACC. If there is no such nearest point of relief, you may still take this free relief by using the “Point of Maximum Available Relief” as the reference point, which MUST be either on the putting green or in the general area.

By thoroughly understanding the definitions of important terms, golfers can navigate the Rules of Golf more effectively and make well-informed decisions while on the course.

For full information and a collection of resources about changes to the Rules of Golf for 2023, visit https://www.usga.org/content/usga/hom…

For the full library of telecasts and films from golf’s iconic moments, get the FREE USGA OnDemand app for your Connected TV or mobile device. Available on Apple TV, Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Android TV, iOS, Android, and XBox. Check it out here: https://www.usgaondemand.com.

The USGA is a nonprofit organization that celebrates, serves and advances the game of golf. Founded in 1894, we conduct many of golf’s premier professional and amateur championships, including the U.S. Open and U.S. Women’s Open. With The R&A, we govern the sport via a global set of playing, equipment, handicapping and amateur status rules. The USGA campus in Liberty Corner, New Jersey, is home to the Association’s Research and Test Center, where science and innovation are fueling a healthy and sustainable game for the future. The campus is also home to the USGA Golf Museum, where we honor the game by curating the world’s most comprehensive archive of golf artifacts. To learn more, visit https://www.usga.org.

Leave a Reply Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *